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it helps you find the price that's right for you. oh, the price gun. ♪ ahh wish we had this. we just tell people what to pay. yeah, we're the ly ones that d i love your insurance. bill? tom? hey! it's an office party! the "name your price" tool. only from progressive. call or click today. everyone loves a good joke. that's all coming up next on "your business."
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small businesses are revitalizing the economy and american express is here to help. hi there, everyone. welcome to "your business." we give you tips and advice to help your business grow. it may be crazy but it turns out that laughter is good for business. for new york's public relations firm, lightening up brought a competitive advantage to their work while booing employee morale and winning new customers. ♪ >> hi. >> hi, i'm steve cody.
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>> i'm clayton fletcher. >> can you tell which one is actually a comedian? >> i'm an account supervisors. i run strategy for a number of clients. >> i'm co-founder of peppercome and i do next to nothing. >> i'm in charge of taking out the trash at peppercome. no, i'm their comedy coach. they bring me in and i teach them how to be funny. >> at peppercome, the employees are actually paid to laugh. no joke. this is a typical comedy work shop that is run by professional comedian clayton fletcher. >> who would like to go next? >> and attended by the staff. >> one thing i strongly discourage is a joke. wait, aren't you a comedy trainer? yes, i am. but i don't want to hear jokes. i want the truth. >> seems a bit like a boondoggle, getting to sit around and laugh with your colleagues while on the clock. but it's not. the mastermind behind these sessions is peppercom's managing
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partner steve cody who says that a little laughter goes a long way when it comes to business. he came up with the idea after trying stand up comedy himself. >> boy have i got a kidney for you. >> you're naked there. you don't have a power point presentation to support you. and then i suddenly woke up and said wait a second this is really helping me in business, too. and i noticed that, you know, even though i thought i was a fairly good public speaker and presenter, i was becoming subtly better at reading audiences, at filling those pregnant pauses that occur in any kind of business meeting. i thought to myself, i shouldn't keep this just to me. i should share it with the rest of the agency. >> so steve hired clayton to come up with strategies to help peppercom's employees become better comedians which would turn them into better communeors, which would make them better at their jobs. >> i think humor is like a fingerprint. everyone has their own unique version of it.
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and so that's the first thing we do is exercises to get them thinking about what makes them laugh, what makes them funny. >> clayton says in order for comedy to become a huseful part of your every day job, the jokes have to start with something real. >> 83-year-old polish grandmother is sitting in the front with a -- force. >> and then quickly move to the punch line. >> one of the most important elements of a good punch line is a surprise. so we try to find ways to misdirect or confuse the audience so that the funny part catches them off guard. because you want your clients and your perspective clients to never know what you're going to throw at them next. >> another comedy technique clayton focuses on that helps companies and comedians alike is knowing your audience. >> it's about eye contact. it's about reading other people's body language. it's about focusing on the client and how the client is responding to what i'm saying.
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and then making adjustments based on whether the visual feedback i'm receiving is positive or negative. >> you look miserable. >> that's what i do every night in the club. there's a guy in the front row with his arms crossed and yawning. i'm going to talk about that to try to loosen him up a little bit. >> should be in a balcony making fun of muppets. >> while the goal of these workshops is to help turn out better pr professionals, the most daring student from the work shop try out their material during clayton's show at the new york comedy club. a challenge that is not for the faint of heart. >> i was like can you believe lisa? she is, no, in her 20s. no wonder she was such a slut. am i right? >> this has led to an award winning blog and a music company video. >> it's all about putting price on the line. >> it may seem like all fun and games, but humor in the
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workplace boosted business at peppercom by winning them their best client to date, whirlpool. >> peppercom stood out for a number of reasons. primarily, they had a lot of fun repertoire and some things they were doing online. and they also at the same time would interspers professional high level counseling in the midst of all of the fun. so it made them something special. >> it's because of comedy. audrey actually searched out firms and found us on the web and knew about us a little bit but saw the comedy workshops we do. she got really excited about that. >> comedy has given peppercom a distinct competitive advantage by improving employee morale, tickling their funny bones and also helping the company's bottom line. >> winning the whirl pool business was colossal. since we got our foot in the door, we represent whirl pool, maytag, amana corporate and global. you could say i don't want to
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come across the wrong way, but you could say we're laughing all the way to the bank. >> so is humor a sound business tool? let's turn to this week's hilarious board of directors. we have a columnist and the ceo of 12 gurus, an innovation consulting group and author of "effective gratitude for organizations and individuals" and you're a comedian which is what makes so you perfect for this discussion. thanks so much for joining us, guys. >> thank you. >> so when i was watching that, i am sort of petrified for those people. nothing sounds scarier to me than standing up in a front of group of people and trying to be funny. what if it's not funny? >> the audience is usually drunk. you're fine. >> at a comedy club. >> institute the two drink minimum and work will go much smoother. >> it isn't only about comedy. what they've done there is
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created a culture. and that's one of the most important things. their culture happens to be comedy. it doesn't have to be for you. i mean it was terrific what they did. and people like particular culture. funny is good. you know? they tract tho they attract the people that want to work for them, who like humor. >> even if you don't care about being funny in the workplace, there's got to be something to being able to get up there and shed all of your fears and that's got to help you just in interactions whether it be work interactions or personal interactions. it's got to help you at work. >> life is about being there. life is about making an effort and taking that risk, especially if you start a business or start any venture or make a connection with somebody. you actually have to go through and break a barrier. that barrier is not just something the other person has but it's your own barriers. comedy is really about, you know, going -- >> what they're doing is making people feel comfortable. in other words, when somebody gets up and makes a fool of themselves and people are laughing at you, what's better than that?
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>> right. exactly. that's what i think is so great about it. and so scary about it. do you find that your comedy helps you in your business? >> i think it does. it breaks down the barriers. and success comes from being open and human. more and more we're seeing that. you look at a company like zappos and people connect with it because they feel there is a conversation that they can have and there is actually a human on the other side of the line. and the business taz are growing now are very personal. comedy, when it's done right, is very personal. >> and it's not only comedy. you know, the best comedy are true stories. as they said in that piece before, they have to start off with something that is actual. the funniest things are things that happen to you while you're at business, while you're at work. and if you can tell people those stories, it's fantastic. >> i ghaes they're buildiuess wg is funny people. but confidence really. >> they're doing two things. they're building culture within a company. and when you want to tract customers, you know, people love
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to have a great culture. that's the first thing. second of all, they're building employee loyalty which is really important. the employees love to go to work. that's one of the most important things. >> we have to wrap up. can funny be learned? can you learn to be funny sfwh. >> i've seen people start out that were terrible and they're still pretty horrible but they're much better. there is always hope. >> all right. thanks so much, you guys. with money still hard to come by, small business owners have had to get creative to survive. in this installment of "where's the money," we visit a restaurant owner strapped for cash and came up with a clever idea to fund his business after the banks turned him down. in the sleepy town of hastings on hudson, new york, at a small organic eatery called comfort, something incredible is happening. strapped by the cash crisis in
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the middle of a renovation, john halco, the chef and owner of comfort did something completely unexpected. he asked his customers for money. >> i thought it was a really creative idea. i mean every time you walked in you could see the card. i was reading about it. it was very creative. a hastings kind of way approaching things. >> like so many other cash strapped small businesses, he first turned to the banks for help. no one would loan him the money. >> there's not enough money in circulation to support our business activity. so restaurants and book stores and small businesses that need cash to stay alive basically have to make their own. >> he let his customers know that his company is struggling and gave them the opportunity to invest in his business. >> if you purchase a vip card for $500, i'll activate the card or cards with $600 on it. so right off the top, you get 20% on your investment to be
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used in my restaurant. >> it is a stroke of genius. like we were able to purchase a card knowing that it was solid investment. >> the resourcefulness translated into raising almos d $40,000, saving his business and bridging the gap to finish the business expanding the size of the restaurant. with the bank cut out of the equation, there are no strings attached. >> well, first of all, i don't have to make any monthly payments. i don't have to worry about interest. and as far as the recoupingst money, it doesn't cost me that much to recoup it. basically it is the cost of food, labor. >> he also uses the vip cards or what he sometimes calls comfort dollars as currency for doing business with other local businesses, exchanging food for services. i've been bartering with people in the community. i have people working with me on the website. and so we bought it with the vip card. if they do work, i give money on
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the vip cards. my lawyer, any time she does work for me, i give her a vip card. >> a lesson that might apply to other small businesses in these troubling economic times. >> i think it really stems around the community because people have to believe in you to do something like this. and you really have to set roots down and make people believe in you. and that's what i've done. and it feels good. you know you want to be your own boss but you're a little hesitant to do it by yourself. so you may want to try franchising. here are entrepreneur magazine's top five franchises for 2011. number five on the list is super cuts. the company's growth has slowed a bit in recent years. but it's on track to open in 100 locations in 2011 and 200 locations in 2012. number four, sev7-eleven.
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number three, mcdonald's. they focused on improving quality and customer experience. second, ampm. after being acquired in 2006, the chain expanded rapidly beyond the roots in the west. and number one on the list, hampton hotels, the company has positioned itself as a value leader at a time when travelers are looking to spend a little less. still to come, search engine optim optimazation. and today's elevator pictures hope that they have a product that will give them a slice of the market. ♪ when the moon hits your eye seven years ago, i had this idea. to make baby food the way moms would.
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happybaby strives to make the best organic baby food. in a business like ours, personal connections are so important. we use our american express open gold card to further those connections. last year we took dozens of trips using membership rewards points to meet with the farmers that grow our sweet potatoes and merchants that sell our product. we've gone from being in 5 stores to 7,500. booming is using points to make connections that grow your business.
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you want to be positive and engaged in that. you have to be a part of the conversation. it's a two-way vehicle. >> so the more that is being talked about, the more stuff generated on social media about you will help in your search? >> yeah. you'll actually start seeing depending on the news, you see tweets show up in the google search results, for example. it's going to be a slow process but something that people need to be aware of. >> and this i heard about a lot. this will help you get hired on right away. >> this is google's secret sauce back in the day. everyone does it now. in order to maintain integrity and make it hard to spam, they said let's have a popularity index and count the number of people that link into the site
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and then weigh that by how many link into them. that is google's magic. >> got it. to get someone very popular to link to your site is helpful. >> great. so get a really great blogger to write you about and leak the site. >> absolutely. what you want is if they do link to you, you want that linking text to be something you'd like to rank for. you don't know how many times people have the link say for running shoes, click here. unless you want to rank for click here, you want running shoes to be the link. >> interesting. and then finally, video in your site. >> right. google loves video. if you have video content, if you can make video content, people love it. you tag it correctly, you get it on your site and google will reward that. >> these seem doable. they seem easy to do. i hope people out there can go ahead and try it and start to see them go up higher. >> yeah. you start with the baby steps. >> all right. mike, thanks so much. >> thank you. ♪ the first cut is the deepest necessity is the mother of
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invention. if you have a lot of kids or a lot of customers, you know that slicing up a pizza into equal slices can be really tricky. today's elevator pitcher says his product is on the cutting edge of the problem. >> hi, i'm an attorney and president of neuvo grand. >> our product is a cutting tool that cuts equal pizza slices. i developed the portion panel for a problem that my pizza business and the $20 billion pizza industry runs into every day. loss of profits from poorly cut unequal pizza slices. with a portion panel, every slice is a profit setter. >> it is customizable, easy to use and easy to maintain. that's why it's so much better than the competition out there. in less than a year, we sold $45,000 worth.
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we have a large pizza franchise. we have other businesses involved. we're asking for 400,000 from marketing, branding, and intellectual property worldwide. >> all right. thank you so much for your pitch. and for bringing it on. definitely -- i kind of like this thing. i i could get into that. now, great idea. let me hear how the panel things. loren, how did they do in the pitch? >> well, i'm a little prejudice. i always go into a pizza place and try to get the biggest piece, so i'm not sure -- >> this is your portion. >> exactly. so, i'm not too sure this is for me. i'd be more interested in hearing what your gross margins are, what your market is. i think your market may be a little too small for me. but like i always say, i never discourage anybody from going into their business and good luck. >> all right. how about the pitch? did they say -- did they miss anything? get anything in there? >> i like the enthusiasm, but it sounds more like an armageddon than i've seen in a pizza place.
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i've never seen anybody fight about this slice being too big or too small. and i feel like the person cutting the pizza, that's all they do all day is cut the pizza, and if they're cutting it at eight slices, they're doing that ten hours a day, i'm not sure they need a guide to do it. >> maybe your idea would be, then, to actually explain the problem a little bit better in the pitch? >> i'd say you've got to explain the problem, but again, i like the idea. looks like a cool fraternity prank, but i'm not quite sure that people actually have a problem with the size much their slice. >> since i'm getting none of you would take the meeting, let's make this more productive. what should they add? >> tell the possibility of the marketplace and gross margins, for sure. >> one thing they could add? >> you have to show a way you're really going to save a drastic amount of money for restauranteurs who don't like to change things and maybe throw in extra cheese. >> thanks so much. good luck with everything. congratulations on the sale you've done already. we appreciate it. and thank you so much, as usual. and if any of you out there have a product or a service and
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you want feedback from our "elevator pitch" panel on your chances of getting interested investors, send us an e-mail. please include a short summary of what your company does, how much money you're trying to raise and what you intend to do with the money. and you never know, be in out there watching might be interested in helping you. time now to answer some of your business questions. norman and ari are with us once again. the first question is from a managing partner of a public relations firm. >> in the past year alone, we've had over 33% growth. we started in new york in 2009 with only me, and now we have five full-time employees and several interns, and we're growing rapidly. so, how fast is too fast to grow? >> it's a nice problem to have, right? >> it seems like what's the other problem, the car is too nice, the boyfriend is too good-looking? what is she going to write in about? >> that's a great question, and
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there's two things you have to ask yourself. first is why, why am i growing this fast, is there a reason? and the second is making sure you don't out-grow your cash, because good businesses can go out of business if they run out of cash. >> so, when she says how do i know if i'm growing too fast, you look at your cash? >> the issue there is the people. you may grow fast, but you may not necessarily be able to hire the right people that quickly. and there, you end up with a large team of people that are not a-players, and all of a sudden, you've got a totally different company you don't want to be a part of. >> what do you suggest she do, take time off and spend a day evaluating people, cash, anything else? >> yeah. i think she has to look down the road where do i want to be in three years and why? and do i have enough resources to get there, both in cash, and as ari said, in people. >> that's a good question, too, do you want to grow? >> exactly. >> you get on the bandwagon and it's hard to get off. >> she's got to decide her life goals. does she want a multimillion dollar company or do something she loves? that may be both, but she may
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find she expands outside her comfort zone. success is not to the point you feel overwhelmed. >> let's move on. this is a question from a ceo of a real estate firm with a special focus on social entrepreneurship. >> once you achieve success, say in a local market, how do you take that business and franchise it? what are the first steps that you have to take in order to make a successful business franchisable? >> franchises are cookie cutters. so, you have to set up the cookie cutter. i'm not sure one's enough. you may have to open up two or three different places. and you have to have manuals and you have to have procedures that can be followed and duplicated over and over again. the most successful franchises, the biggest one, like subway, you walk into a subway store anywhere, the food tastes exactly the same. so, when you're franchising or thinking of franchising, you might have to have a service or a product that is transferrable in the exact same way, and i'm not sure this early in this guy's career, whether he's ready to do that or not.
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>> i go, again, to the people issue, which is when you start a franchise -- i run a volunteer organization in 13 cities and some of those cities thrive and some struggle, and you've got to find someone who is willing to lead, to run a business, but also someone willing to follow that step-by-step manual that norm talks about, and that's a difficult mix to follow. someone who wants to take charge, someone who also wants to go by the book. those people are tough to find and that may be your first step in franchising is finding those people. >> let's move on to a question about hiring your first employee. >> when do you know to hire that first employee so that -- and what role should they play? what is that key hire, the first key hire? >> it's got to be an area where you feel i've got find someone who can do this better than i do it. i think if you're going to hire your first person, as norm talked about, it's building your corporate culture and you want somebody who will lead you into a better path. this is not time to hire someone to just fill in the work and lessen your load, but find someone who you can say you do
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this better than i do. i'm going let you lead. >> well, i disagree. you're never going to find anybody as good as you, and most people look for people as good or better than them. you find somebody different. first of all, our attitude is you hire for attitude and that's the first thing. you can teach people what to do things. the second thing is that make sure you hire somebody who has the ability to learn and the ability to want to learn. so, that's when. and the question was, when do you do it? and the answer is that as you're building your business, you're going to know. do you have enough money to do it, do you have enough work for them to do it, can you take yourself out of that position and do other things within the company? >> norm, thank you for your advice. it's very helpful. in any of you out there have a question for our experts, just go to our website, hit the "ask the show" link to submit a question for our panel. again, the website is
7:57 am or if you'd rather, e-mail us your questions or comments to now that we've heard from our experts, here are a few of your great ideas that will help out other entrepreneurs. >> first thing you need to do is keep a good team around you, and that's something that i've learned. i've learned to not micromanage. i've learned to be flexible, to be open-minded and also to be honest with myself and try to hire somebody who's going to complicate your strengths and your weaknesses. and it's so simple, but it can really make or break you. >> i think it's really important to invest in good legal advisory services up front as a small business, because this can really save you a lot of headaches and money down the line. >> this day in age of social media and e-mail and all these other forms of communication, they're really great and prove really powerful. there's something simple and
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powerful about a phone call and people overlook it as a powerful tool to get business done. with the nonstop barrage of twitter feeds, friend requests and status update, who actually has time to get any work done? our website of the week can help. freedom, which is available at, is a productivity application that can reduce the distractions that come with an internet connection. it sets up a wall to block internet access for up to ten hours so you can work offline. macro window users can buy the full version for $10 or a free trial version is also available. to learn more about today's show, click on our website, you'll find all of today's segments, plus web-exclusive content with more information to help your business grow. and don't forget to become a fan of the show on facebook. we look forward to getting some of your feedback. you can also follow us on twitter, if you'd like.
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it's @msnbcyourbiz. next week, learn an entrepreneur who learned about sharing too much information about her business idea. >> i said you're not going to believe this, but i was about to open the same exact store in the same location, really almost had the same name, too. and they're like, wow. you just must be shocked, but it's not a coincidence. >> find out how this business owner turned her devastation into inspiration and overcame the shock of her life. until then, i'm jj ramberg, and remember, we make "your business" our business. this is my band from the 80's, looker. hair and mascara, a lethal combo. i'm jon haber of alto music. my business is all about getting music

Your Business
MSNBC January 23, 2011 7:30am-8:00am EST


TOPIC FREQUENCY Us 5, Clayton 4, New York 4, Clayton Fletcher 2, Peppercome 2, Optim Optimazation 1, Zappos 1, Steve Cody 1, Tom 1, Ampm 1, Buildiuess Wg 1, Maytag 1, Whirlpool 1, Offline 1, Peppercom 1, John Halco 1, Mascara 1, Ramberg 1, Loren 1, Amana 1
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on 4/6/2011